Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
In curling his first goal of the season beyond the outstretched arm of Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul, Salah became the first player to score in the opening game of five consecutive Premier League campaigns. At the time he could have had no idea that, on the final day of the campaign, Liverpool would have already won two domestic cups, booked their place in the Champions League final and still be in contention for the title.
Recently voted the Football Writers’ Association player of the season for a second time, the Egyptian has again been pivotal in his side’s successes and celebrated his 100th goal for Liverpool in September, achieving his century in fewer top-flight games than any player in the club’s history. That was just another of numerous personal goalscoring milestones the Egyptian would record in a season that concluded with him sharing the Golden Boot. Salah’s consistency is all the more impressive given that his future at Liverpool remains uncertain and he has yet to agree to extend a contract that expires at the end of next season. He has said he wants to stay at the club and fans will be hoping the hierarchy acquiesce to his financial demands.
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
One of any number of Manchester City players who could have been included on this shortlist, Silva agitated for a move last summer, stating he wanted to be closer to his family after the isolation of lockdown. While City would have almost certainly coped, they must be delighted there were no acceptable bids. Silva has had a phenomenal season, scoring in league wins against seven different sides, while providing four assists and creating double the number of “big chances” that went untaken.
Capable of playing either side or in the middle, Silva is a wonderful dribbler and passer with a keen eye for goal. He made club history by winning three consecutive City player of the month awards in September, October and November. This form was rubber-stamped with a man-of-the-match performance capped by two goals against Watford in the first week of December. In a league campaign where City had little or no margin for error, Silva also scored crucial, match-winning goals against Leicester and Aston Villa, but has again hinted he would be open to a return to his native Portugal before his contract expires in 2025 He has done himself few favors by increasing the already large price tag that put off potential suitors last summer.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
The scorer of 23 goals, none of which have come from the penalty spot, Son cut a forlorn if slightly amusing figure as he sulked on the bench after being taken off with 18 minutes to go during Tottenham’s recent route of Arsenal so he could be rested. Son’s largesse clearly did not extend to gifting this season’s Golden Boot to Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. Two goals on the final day of the season meant he shared the award with the Egyptian and his performances for Spurs this season earned him a player of the season nomination.
Not just a scorer of goals but a scorer of crucial goals, only two of Son’s strikes this season have come in Tottenham defeats, against Arsenal and Southampton while he has also contributed seven assists. The South Korean has thrived under the management of Antonio Conte, having scored only one goal for each of the four months Nuno Espírito Santo was in charge. He will be left pondering the goalscoring heights he could have scaled had Conte been appointed during the summer.
Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)
The £ 21m West Ham paid Hull for Bowen in January 2020 looks more of a bargain with each appearance the 25-year-old makes for David Moyes’s side. During a season in which the previously maligned London Stadium has finally come to resemble a proper football ground, Bowen has done more than most to get fans out of their seats. In terms of bare statistics, he has chipped in with 12 top-flight goals (matching his xG) and 10 assists, while his tireless running and ability to cut inside from the right and find half-spaces has prompted calls for an England call- up and sparked rumors of a potential summer move to Liverpool, who do not sign too many duds.
Almost ever-present in a side that have played 55 matches in all competitions this season, Bowen is humble, hard-working, preposterously fit, rarely injured or suspended and boasts a saccharine sweet left foot. He has been instrumental in taking West Ham from the relegation battle they fought and won in his first half-season at the club to back-to-back qualifications for Europe.
Marc Cucurella (Brighton)
While the man voted Brighton’s player of the season might not be an obvious contender for this shortlist, Cucurella has been a highly conspicuous Premier League presence this season and not just because of his trademark big hair. Signed from Getafe during the summer for £ 15.4m, the 23-year-old left-back looks born to the English top flight, despite having to wait until this month to score his first goal for Brighton, a strike against Manchester United that moved him to tears.
Strong in defense and no stranger to marauding runs up the pitch, Cucurella is also an excellent crosser of the ball and has apparently caught the eye of Pep Guardiola, in the market for a left-footed left-back. Brighton fans would be sorry to lose a player who has become a firm favorite after just one season, but a rumored fee of over £ 30m would at least enable their club to splash out on reinforcements.